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Why Researchers and Strategists Should Sit in on Tech Meetings

Participating in tech meetings offers a unique opportunity for professionals to gain more insight, and more perspective.

by Emily Cox

I’m a researcher and strategist who is lucky enough to often do my work within the context of technology. My work contributes to our app dev and digital engagement teams building the right systems and software for the right people.

For this reason, I’m also fortunate enough to actively participate in meetings where our engineers and tech leads discuss the architecture and features of systems. I get to watch them push and pull as they find the right balance of constraints and freedoms, prioritize, structure and combine their deep technical knowledge in a way that benefits our clients.

I’m not a developer; much of the language and concepts used in tech meetings can be opaque for me. But I’ve learned that sitting in these meetings, paying real attention, and wrestling with concepts that can be so far from what I do on a daily basis, has been a boon to my work - and helpful for me as a human being.

Here’s why I think my fellow researchers and strategists (and anyone else, really), should sit in on tech meetings:

  • You’ll recognize the shortcomings and biases of your own human brain.
    The other day, my mind got blown as the team and I were playing a game to help us prioritize platform features. After a few minutes of this game, I became aware that my attention was attracted - over and over again - to a particular feature. I noticed it was one of the few features I felt like I understood clearly. Our brains have a very special, and very misleading, way of placing undue importance on things we’re familiar with. As researchers, that means the risk of biased results and missed insights. Becoming aware of my own tendencies means my recommendations are more true to life, more actionable, and therefore, drive more results.  
  • You won’t succeed on auto-pilot.
    Let’s be honest. Most of the time, our attention is extremely divided—especially in situations where we feel super comfy in our own area of expertise. When you put yourself in situations where you’re way out of your element, you have to listen closely, ask lots of questions, and test out your own ideas and assumptions along the way with the help of the group. Frankly, this is the way we should be paying attention in every meeting. It makes for better ideas and teamwork, and it also makes things more interesting and fun. Tech meetings force me into that space, and help me exercise my easily distractible focus muscles.
  • You’ll become a beginner again.
    “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” – Shunryu Suzuki
    Being out of your element means you can’t fake it. It also means you have to embrace new concepts and ask many questions in order to understand. Tech meetings create opportunities where I’m allowed to be a beginner. When I allow myself to be a beginner, my senses of wonder and appreciation turn on, while the pressure I put on myself to be an expert and my instinct to resist unfamiliar ideas, turn off. In short, this opens a space where my creativity and new perspectives are invited to flourish. This is where great work originates.
  • You’ll have lightbulb moments regarding your own work.
    You can’t do great market or customer research for a system or product you don’t understand. Listening to our tech teams talk about their work gives me insight into research I’ve already started, and shines light on areas I have yet to explore. Excuse yourself from tech meetings at the risk of missing important information. Plus, listening to new concepts and working to understand them literally opens up new or little-used neurological pathways in your brain. Great research is often about looking at problems in new and unexpected ways. The new inputs and information offered in tech meetings turn on your brain in a way that prepares you to see your own work from a different perspective.
  • You’ll be more relevant.
    These days, it’s a rare project or initiative that doesn’t require some sort of technology, whether you are creating a solution for those inside a company or for a client’s end customers. Technology may often be a means to an end, but it is the way we get things done today. Understanding it helps you better understand the interworking of teams, companies, markets and people’s lives—the way the world and society work. This is the raw material of real, actionable research and strategy.
  • You’ll better understand the benefit of “push and pull” within a team.
    I’ll be the first to admit that people challenging my ideas makes me uncomfortable. I know I’m not alone. But being a part of tech meetings has allowed me to change the way I perceive challenges. I have listened to our tech teams push and pull, challenge one another, and respectfully disagree—and it’s become very apparent to me that this is the environment that allows for breakthroughs and shared ownership. Welcome challenge, and you’ll see better output.
  • You’ll get humble really quickly.
    If we’re honest with ourselves, it’s easy to begin to feel like you know it all when you spend enough time mired in your own area of expertise. Don’t stay in that place (see becoming a beginner, above.) Nothing will make you appreciate the interdependency of multi-discipline teams and the vast and varied knowledge of your peers more than listening to them talk about what they know best – and what you know little to nothing about. Jump into the deep end of someone else’s world, and you’ll be better for it. 

 

To learn more about team dynamics at SingleStone and how we use Scrum, click here. 
Emily Cox
Senior Consultant
Contact Emily